Roadside repair: Jiffy switch and dead man's switch

ER Classics Desktop 2022

We heard it, so it's really true. A couple, ANWB member, had bad luck last summer. After a quiet night in an ANWB accredited B&B in the Vosges, their machine would no longer start. Now the couple, like many current motorcyclists, had covered themselves against anything and everything.

The only thing they had not arranged was to get the hang of Walloon or French. That is a lack in the regions concerned. But with the ANWB help app on the smartphone you always come home. Because in the event of a broken motorcycle or physical suffering, our traveling couple had the right to be repatriated. Okay, it took an extra night and the two tourists did not dare to visit the thermal baths of Plombières in the meanwhile enthusiastic chilly rain, because they were not geared towards public nudity. The next day brought solutions and insight. The driver of the salvage camion came, saw and conquered.

The solution

The man from the recovery center unlocked the engine, turned on the ignition wirelessly and… saw that the engine was in gear. Motorcycles have been equipped with tricks that the rider must protect against himself for about 20+ years. Starting with the engine in gear and driving off with the side stand off are proven not to be good ideas. The salvage company lit the green light with a tap of his toes. He pressed the start button. The engine started and ran perfectly. And was ridden up the recovery camion under their own power. The 'Oops! Moment 'had hit the tourists hard. The man grumbled and blushed. They decided to have the bike repatriated anyway because they 'lost faith in the trip'. Or was there a marital quarrel? So much for the motorcyclist as an individual who sees only challenges and no problems.

In the past, motorcyclists had a whole control ritual before starting

Nowadays that is no longer necessary. Often the light show on the display already shows everything, right down to the tire pressure. But some rational insight is and remains useful. That overlook of being in gear, that will not happen to us. But we can be confronted with another starting problem. A problem that can also play with classics from the eighties. And then the jiffy switch is the culprit.

That jiffy switch is one of the first attempts to protect motorcyclists against themselves. Because how much imagination is needed to think about what happens when someone forgets to collapse their side stand and then bravely plunges into the first left turn? We have seen it happen. The rider is thrown out of the saddle as if he were sitting on a drugged rodeo horse. His air journey was spectacular, his landing painful. But his ego and his engine were badly damaged after landing.

That switch works like this

The insignificant spare part is located near the pivot point of the side stand. Usually at the front or back of it. A pin comes out that is operated by the side stand. There are two wires, or a combi plug. That switch closes the circuit when the sidestand rises and is an interruption of the ignition system. With an outstanding side stand, that system is interrupted, so the engine does not start. Because: no sparks on the spark plugs. Great right? Unfortunately, in terms of maintenance, that switch is often a poor child.

The part is one of the kind 'From the eye, from the heart'. And that also applies to its cleaning and lubrication. Moisture and dirt feel nurtured in the environment, low under the frame, the block and in the shadow of the footrests and thus hinder the operation of the switch over time. The remedy is usually simple. These days we no longer have an extensive set of on-board tools with us. But having some exquisite tools, some tie wraps and a small spray can with WD40 should be mandatory.

WD40 cleans and lubricates

The oil brand Valvoline also had such a product with the name '1299'. That represented: Is good for 1 thing, for 2 things and 99 other things'. It stayed with local world fame for that product. According to the stories, WD40 stands for 'Water Displacement, 40th attempt'. The 40th attempt to make a moisture repellent for NASA or something. And of course Valvoline couldn't stand NASA. With the WD40, dirt can be sprayed away while the switch is made normal again. It also works great as a hand cleaner. It appears to be unhealthy with skin contact. But what doesn't know, what doesn't bother. The famous WD40 is more a cleaning and solvent than a pure lubricant. So after the stuff has done its miracle work, make sure you have a drop of oil.

But we are not that far yet. Place the bike on the centerstand or support it - in 1st gear - against a solid object. Nothing is more annoying than a motor that rolls away while tinkering. Then move the sidestand in and out. See if there is anything moving in the mass of debris that often resides at the hinge. Try to move the moving pin of the switch a little extra with the tip of a screwdriver or needle nose pliers. This usually works at some point. And if that doesn't work? Then it's time for plan B.

Plan B

If the switch is defective, the two wires must be connected. This can be done by removing the wires with a lighter flame or pocket knife and twisting the copper wires together. That is a road repair 1.0. But if he brings you home? Better are an extra piece of wire and a few 'AMP' terminal plugs or a crown stone. And after all, you already had that on board? In this way the switch can be bridged.

The engine works again. But can also drive well while the sidestand stands out proudly. So remember that this is a 'bush repair'. The same approach applies to the all-important rear brake light switch. He usually lives under the same harsh conditions and is often forgotten during a wash or brush.

The dead man's button

And the other switch moment that can spoil our lives? That is the dead man's button. It may end up in its short-circuit position while maneuvering. And we will never have done it, but there are people who see the humor in turning that dead man's button and then waiting quietly when the owner of the so-broken engine sees the light. Always check the deadman button before starting. Certainly when a couple of people are grinning at the engine. With 20+ people who have often slept outside, sometimes the switch will close. The deadman button interrupts the ignition circuit so that the spark plugs no longer get sparks. It's a sensible thing. But he's not on cars either. So he could just be bridged.

Jiffy switches: Out of sight, out of heart

Can also be insidious. If only because a joke may have turned it over: The dead man's button

A rear brake light switch from 1946


Give a reaction
  1. dead man's switch; stand with honda 500/4 armed bar on the left next to me in front of the traffic light, ready for a rubber-burning sprint, my quietly simmering Jawa cali is waiting for my orders. The red light goes out, a quick grasp of the red button on the dog handlebar is done quickly and the Jawa is gone with a smoke curtain left behind and a free-looking mate and a knocked-down Honda.
    Giant easy automatic Jawa clutch, keep your left hand free to take measures against Japanese domination.
    Karma: a few years later; working hours on my Laverda who didn't want to start, mate: so that the button is still good? grrrr

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